Napier will be a good place to start the New Zealand tour: John Wright

India’s former coach and NZ captain tells MiD DAY that Dhoni & Co can find solace in their no-warm-up-game scenario in the fact that they play first up in batter-friendly McLean Park

John Wright, the former India coach who was involved in four India vs New Zealand series in Kiwiland (see box), reckons the January-February series will test India’s young and exciting batting line-up differently than South Africa. “This is the sort of tour where you’ve really got to knuckle down and get through the tough periods as a batsman when the ball is moving around.

John Wright
John Wright

“It will be another experience for them (young batsmen), but South Africa is always a tough place to tour and India did pretty well there,” Wright told MiD DAY from Christchurch on Tuesday. In the Wright years (2000 to 2005), the Indian team played a good number of warm-up games when on tour. For this month’s tour, Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co go into the one-day series without a warm-up game.

“It’s tough when you don’t have a lot of warm-up cricket. But there’s an advantage in playing in Napier (venue of the first ODI on Jan 19) first because that’s the best batting track in the country. Normally it’s a very good wicket. That’s probably in India’s favour. If you want to start with good batting conditions, it would probably be Napier and by the time the Test series comes around, the Indian batsmen should be well adjusted to the conditions,” said Wright.

Wright is mighty impressed with the flamboyant Virat Kohli, the rock solid Cheteshwar Pujara and of course, Rohit Sharma, who he coaches at Mumbai Indians. After an impressive start to his Test career with two centuries in two Tests against the West Indies in November, Rohit did not hit the high notes in South Africa. 

MS Dhoni
MS Dhoni hits his way to an unbeaten 84 during India’s last match against NZ in Napier on March 3, 2009. Pic/Getty Images

“A lot of things have changed in Indian cricket since I was involved. The batting line-up has gone and it’s so good to see these youngsters performing,” said Wright. At the same time, the former captain reckoned that his countrymen can bare their fangs. “It’s not a tour where you can underestimate New Zealand. They can be very competitive especially at home. 

There are quite a few young players who have come through well and Ross Taylor is in good form. I think India are probably expecting to play on green wickets. The wickets will probably seam more here than SA and it will seam for longer periods. There will be some grass on the wickets, but having said that, sometimes these so-called green wickets…(can play differently),” he said.

New Zealand has proved to be one of the hardest places to win for Team India over the years. Sample this: Since their 3-1 historic win in 1967-68 (this was India’s first-ever overseas Test series win), India have only won two Tests there over seven series. When Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team won the 2008-09 series 1-0, it was India’s first series win in 41 years.

Summing up the conditions to succeed was the main challenge that confronted the Indians (some former players who played in the 1970s would throw in the poor umpiring aspect as well).  

Wright’s involvement in IND-NZ series in Kiwiland

> India to NZ in 1980-81 (as NZ’s opening batsman)
India to NZ in 1989-90 (as NZ’s opening batsman and captain)
India to NZ in 2002-03 (as India coach)
India to NZ in 2008-09 (as NZ selector)

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